Mar. 09, 2017
Las Vegas Motor Speedway to get 2nd NASCAR Cup Series race in 2018
Speedway Motorsports Inc. is shifting the fall New Hampshire Motor Speedway race to Las Vegas Motor Speedway beginning next season. by Jordan Bianchi
Speedway Motorsports Inc. will transfer one of New Hampshire Motor Speedway’s two Monster Energy Cup Series races to Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2018, giving the Nevada track two NASCAR race weekends annually, multiple industry sources confirmed to SB Nation.
New Hampshire will retain its July Cup Series race , with its fall race going to Las Vegas. The reallocated date would be part of the 10-race Cup Series playoffs.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway officials have scheduled a “special announcement” press conference for 5:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday. That announcement will come 30 minutes after the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority convenes a special meeting of its Board of Directors, where they will have voted whether to pay Las Vegas Motor Speedway $2.5 million a year for seven years to promote two races at the facility. That vote is expected to be in favor of the deal, a person with direct knowledge of the situation, but not authorized to speak publicly, confirmed to SB Nation.
An SMI spokesperson declined comment.
Located 16 miles northeast of The Strip, Las Vegas Motor Speedway opened in 1996 and has hosted a spring NASCAR Cup Series race since 1998. Citing nearly 100,000 out-of-town visitors and an economic impact of $139.2 million, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority has been seeking a second Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, an initiative supported by SMI founder and executive chairman Bruton Smith, who’s long lobbied NASCAR for a second date at the 1.5-mile track.
“We love the support we get out of Las Vegas,” SMI chief executive officer and president Marcus Smith told reporters on Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. “I think the fans love it. It’s a great track for us. When we see that the community is supportive of racing there, it’s definitely encouraging to us.”
Not wanting to expand the Cup Series calendar beyond the current 36 points races and two exhibition events, NASCAR has resisted adding races to a calendar that already runs between mid-February and mid-November. The sanctioning body last expanded the Cup Series schedule in 2001, when Chicago Speedway and Kansas Speedway each received single dates.
In 2011, SMI shifted one of Atlanta’s two races to Kentucky Speedway. The company also owns Bristol Motor Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Sonoma Raceway, and Texas Motor Speedway.
NASCAR’s aversion to expansion left SMI with two options if it wanted to add a second race at Las Vegas: 1) purchase a race from a track outside its portfolio, or 2) shift a date from one of its existing properties. With no tracks outside of SMI indicating a willingness to sell, the first option wasn’t feasible, leaving realignment the lone alternative.
Among SMI’s tracks, moving the fall New Hampshire race to Las Vegas was most practical. SMI recently spent a significant amount on capital improvements at Bristol, Kentucky, and Texas, and is considering repaving Atlanta, a costly expenditure it wouldn’t undertake if it was contemplating transferring its lone date elsewhere. Nor would it take away a race from Sonoma, one of only two road courses the Cup Series races on.
As for Charlotte, the track’s Memorial Day weekend race is considered one of NASCAR’s marquee events and its fall race will transform from being solely an oval race to utilizing the infield road course in 2018, according to NBC Sports.
Like many tracks recently, New Hampshire has experienced a downturn in ticket sales, but its woes extend beyond just the number of spectators in the grandstands. Neither of its two races has a title sponsor this season, while its July race last year also lacked a sponsor.
Moving Charlotte’s All-Star Race in May or New Hampshire’s race in July to Las Vegas was not considered due to Las Vegas’ high temperatures during the summer months, sources told SB Nation.
According to SMI’s 2015 annual report, New Hampshire’s seating capacity is 89,000. Las Vegas is listed at 104,000.